Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism

Celtic Reconstructionism is re-creation of ancient Celtic pre-Christian religious and cultural practices. By focusing on both religion and culture, reconstructionists are able to understand how ancient practices evolved and how to accurately recreate them. Archaeological research is highly emphasized along with mythological and historical research, all united through poetic inspiration.

Threes and nines are sacred to the Celtic peoples and play a large role in religious structure. The universe is divided into the Three Realms (Land, Sea, and Sky), each with their own pantheon of deities. The World Tree and the Sacred Well are the main sacred image and symbology revolves around them. Reconstructionists celebrate the four traditional holy days of Samhain, Oímealg, Bealtaine, and Lúnasa.

The Celtic moral code stresses truthfulness, honor and personal responsibility. Through these concepts, strong ties to the Celtic past are made. These ideals express themselves in the ideas of equality between men and women, a concern for the family, and a strong tie to the land and ancestors.

Our forum has a Special Interest Group board devoted to discussions about Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism: Hazel and Oak: A Celtic Polytheism SIG.

Suggested Reading

(Links are to book pages at Amazon.com and may not be to the specific printing listed.)

Primary Sources


Printed Sources:

Janet Backhouse, The Lindisfarne Gospels (Phaidon Press, 1993). -- An important work from early Northumbria, it was written and illuminated about 698 in honor of St Cuthbert, the famous Bishop of Lindisfarne, who died in 687.

Myles Dillon, The Cycles of the Kings (International Specialized Book Services, 1994).

John Evans, The Black Book of Carmarthen (AMS Press, 1978). -- One of the earliest surviving manuscripts in Welsh and written around the year 1250. Essentially a poetry manuscript that includes poems with the central theme relating to the heroes of Dark Age Britain, and especially those connected with the legend of Myrddin.

Patrick K. Ford, The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977). -- The title Mabinogi refers to the first four stories in this collection of tales from Welsh tradition. These are best known as the "Four Branches of the Mabinogi," and comprise the tales of Pwyll, Brandwen, Manawydan, and Math. Along with these, the remaining stories form a collection that comprises the core of the ancient Welsh myth cycle.

Jeffery Gantz, Early Irish Myths and Sagas (London: Penguin Books, 1981). -- A compilation of 14 myths and tales that represent Celtic oral tradition.

Thomas Kinsella, The Tain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970). -- The Tain Bo Cuailnge, (of the Ulster cycle), tells of a great cattle-raid (the invasion of Ulster by the armies of the queen and king of Connacht), in an attempt to carry off the great Brown Bull of Cuailnge. Alone, Cuchulainn, the Hound of Ulster and hero of the tale, resists the invaders while Ulster's warriors lie sick.

Isabella Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men (Dufour Editions, 1976). -- Translations of Irish Myths.

W.B. Yeats, A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend and Folklore (Gramercy, 1986). -- W.B. Yeats' Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry and Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne.

Online Sources:

The Aberdeen Bestiary Project -- A collection of short descriptions about all sorts of animals, real and imaginary, birds and even rocks, accompanied by a moralizing explanation.

The Book of Deer Project -- A tenth century illuminated manuscript from North East Scotland, it is the only pre-Norman manuscript from this geographical area. Included are some of the oldest pieces of Gaelic writing surviving from Medieval Scotland.

Secondary Sources


Nora Chadwick, The Celts (Penguin, 1970) -- Traces the rise and spread of the Celts, from their arrival in the British Isles to the alteration of their culture under the Romans and then the Saxons.

Tom Peete Cross, Ancient Irish Tales (Rowman & Littlefield, 1969). -- A compilation of epic and romantic literature including examples of the three main cycles of early-Irish literature (Tales of the Tuatha De Danann, The Ulster Cycle, and The Finn Cycle), and other romances and sagas.

Barry Cunliffe, The Ancient Celts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) -- This book explores the archaeological reality of the Celts by investigating the texts of the classical writers and contrasting their views of the Celts with current archaeological findings. Other areas, such as the cultural diversity of the tribes, their social/religious systems, art and language, are also explored.

Miles Dillong, The Celtic Realms (London: Phoenix Press, 2000). -- A survey of the history and culture of the Celts.

Peter Ellis, A Dictionary of Irish Mythology (Oxford, 1987). -- Includes hundreds of entries on legendary creatures, deities, events, places, topics and concepts of historical importance.

Miranda Green, Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992) -- A dictionary covering Celtic myth, religion, and folklore in Britain and Europe between 500 BCE and 400 CE.

James MacKillop, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). -- This dictionary includes 4,000 entries and brief descriptions on the legends, sagas, folklore, traditions, places and personalities of Celtic mythology.

Sabatino Moscati, The Celts (Rizzoli, 2000). -- A collection of essays covering Celtic art, history, archaeology, and culture. Details the ancient, prehistoric origins of the Celts in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as their expansions to the Iberian Peninsula and the British Isles. Ends with articles on the modern Celts and the remains of the civilization today.

Alwyn and Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1989) -- Celtic tradition approached via comparative study of religion, mythology and anthropology. Part One details the various Cycle of tales and prominent personalities in them. Part Two details the cosmological structure within which they take place. Part Three details a discussion of the themes of certain classes of stories in an attempt to understand their religious function.

Selected Links


CELT (Corpus of Electronic Texts) -- A searchable, online database of contemporary and historical topics including literature and art.

CELTICA -- Journal of the School of Celtic Studies.

Celt Digital -- A large website with links to information on Celtic archaeology, journals, music/dance and languages.

Celtic Studies Resouces -- A site with many links to specialty sites. These sites include resources on Breton, Cornish, Gaulish, Medieval Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh languages and culture, as well as Celtic art, archaeology, traditional music and various book reviews.

Dates in Irish Myth and Legend -- A chronology of Irish myth and legend.

Encyclopedia Mythica -- A good place to start for the large collection of myths associated with the Celts.

Irish Literature, Mythology, Folklore and Drama -- A large website with information and links on the history, language, literature and mythology of the Celts. (Warning: main page has music.)

Lugodoc's Guide to Celtic Mythology -- A website devoted to the Irish Myth Cycles.

Organizations


The Henge of Keltria -- A nonprofit religious organization dedicated to the path of Neo-pagan Druidism.

IMBAS -- Homepage for an organization of Celtic reconstructionists.

Treubh Gealach Coille -- Home page for an organization of Celtic reconstructionists.

Mailing Lists


Nemeton -- A mailing list for Celtic Reconstructionists, as well as a website with Celtic resources.

Tuath -- A mailing list for Celtic Reconstructionists.

We would like to thank Hawke Blackthorn and various contributors from The Witches' Thicket for providing almost all of the information on this page.

Interesting Books

 

cover picture from The Ancient Celts

Cover picture for Early Irish Myths and Sagas

The Tain cover illo

The Celts cover illo

The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales cover illo

Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend cover illo

Celtic Recon Volunteers Wanted

The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum is looking for volunteers to help expand this site's material on Celtic Reconstructionism. Most of the articles and features on this site have a strong Wiccan or general Neo-Pagan flavor because most of the articles and features we have been given are written by knowledgeable Wiccan or general Neo-Pagan authors. If you'd like to see some of your original articles and book reviews on Celtic Reconstructionism published on this site, please contact Randall.

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